AMSE 2021 Virtual Conference

The annual conference of the European Association of Higher Education Institutions (AMSE) “Medical Schools of the Future – Towards Purposeful Innovation” hosted by the Faculty of Medicine of Vilnius University (VU), Lithuania took place on 7–9 October.

The three-day conference invited to discuss the most significant issues in three areas. It brought together more than 250 lecturers, academics, researchers, scientists and guests from 25 countries.

Through a crystal ball gazing

The first day of the conference was named as “Through a Crystal Ball Gazing”. It was dedicated to discuss the future study process. Even though it might be difficult to foresee what medical studies will look like in 2030, Prof. Wolfgang Hampe (Hamburg, Germany), Prof. James Pickering (Leeds, UK) and Prof. Richard Fuller (Liverpool, UK) did however highlight the future study process in terms of admission procedures, teaching, learning, and assessment.

Furthermore, six speakers from Hungary, Greece, Sakartvelo (Georgia) and Lithuania shared their multiple experiences during the pandemic. “The speakers from Hungary and Lithuania reminded us that we should take into serious consideration the importance of the physical and psychological wellbeing of medical students during online studies. Of great concern is the decrease in physical activity and increase in burnout of medical students. I am sure that the same could be applied to the educators as well”, said Prof. Vaiva Hendrixson (Vilnius, Lithuania). “Unfortunately, limited physical activity and high psychological pressure due to work overload and hybrid studies has become our new reality. Curriculum developers, administration, and faculty should therefore take into account the increased risk of burnout during online studies and put adequate measures into place.”

Finally, Prof. Olle ten Cate gave lecture entitled “Has the Covid pandemic brought about real change or will we return to the old normal?” The professor summarized the negative impact of COVID on studies and pointed some positive points as well.

A Necessary Partnership or an Uncomfortable Presence?

The second day of the conference covered the topics of research, scientific publications, scholarships and early involvement of students in research.

Prof. Rolf-Detlev Treede (Mannheim, Germany) covered the theme “Why Research Should be a Key Feature of Medical Schools?”. He showed why research are so important for medical schools and shared some practical experience from his medical school in Manheim. Prof. Susan van Schalkwyk (Cape Town, South Africa) presented the topic “Is it Research or Scholarship?” She noted that scholarship and research go hand in hand and the distinction between the two is hazy. And Dr. Andrea Tamás (Pécs, Hungary) invited to take a look at “Extracurricular Activity of Students at the University of Pécs Medical School“.

After that, five speakers from Germany, Georgia, Hungary, Russia and Lithuania shared their insights on different topics related to teaching, student training, assignments and other. Also, Prof. Mariette van den Hoven (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) presented the topic “Revisiting the importance of Ethics in research”.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the patient

On the third day of conference patient-centered aspects of healthcare such as patient safety, inclusion etc. were discussed on the third day of AMSE annual conference. Prof. John Wass (Oxford, UK) presented the topic “Patients as Partners and Educators”. He noted that medical practice has changed irreversibly, irrevocably carried out remotely. According to him, 80 percent physicians’ consultations are currently taking place remotely in UK. Dr. Ioannis Ilias (Athens, Greece) spoke about the importance of patient’s safety and shared Greece experience. “Patient of the Future. No one can see the future but that won’t stop us from trying: Predictions for likelihood and impact” was presented by assoc. prof. Lina Zabuliene (Vilnius, Lithuania).

In the second session six speakers from UK, Ukraine, Hungary, Malta and Lithuania discussed topics connected with academic learning during COVID-19, simulation training, curriculum reform and other. Finally, General Director of European Institute of Women’s Health Peggy Maguire (Dublin, Ireland) presented the topic “What is like to be a patient?”.

An opportunity to share, learn and improve

According to the President of AMSE Prof. Harm Peters, this conference was rich in ideas and discoveries, because the global pandemic left no choice but to adapt to the new conditions of teaching and learning processes.

“The main goal for the academic life, and society as well, is to return back to the normal life we lived before the pandemic. Still, this period has had its own advantages. We must acknowledge that the traditions of academic life during the public health crisis have not lost their value and importance. Rather, on the contrary, we have had the opportunity to see them in a new light and re-evaluate in a way. We had the opportunity not only to understand the importance of community and social engagement but also to improve our leadership, the speed and quality of decisions, solidarity and friendship”, said the President of AMSE.

The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Vilnius University, prof. Algirdas Utkus considered that perhaps this year, as year the Faculty of Medicine of Vilnius University is celebrating its 240th anniversary, it will become a historic date, mentioned by future researchers, when crucial changes towards innovation began. Let’s hope that the advantage of an opportunity to share ideas and learn from each other’s experienced was taken to the fullest and could be used for the further improvement.

AMSE2021 Conference Satellite “RARE DISEASE EDUCATION IN EUROPE: time for a change”

On October 6, 2021, an AMSE2021 satellite workshop “RARE DISEASE EDUCATION IN EUROPE: time for a change” was hosted by the AMSE annual conference. The workshop was organized by the AMSE and Vilnius University, Faculty of Medicine, and co-organized by the European Reference Networks on rare neurological and inherited metabolic diseases (ERN-RND and MetabERN) and EURORDIS, alliance of 974 rare disease patient organisations from 74 countries.

Rare diseases are defined by the only criterion – their rarity: every rare disease affects less than 1 in 2,000 people. However, there is a great heterogeneity behind this name – rare diseases affect any organ or tissue, at any age. About 8,000 rare diseases are currently known, and at least 300 new rare diseases are described each year. Therefore, the total number of rare disease patients is impressive – about 6 percent of the population, not counting rare cancers. Therefore, all physicians, nurses and other health care workers confront with them in their clinical practice.

Unfortunately, patients with rare diseases still face complex unsolved problems: long diagnostic oddysseys that may take 5 to 6 years on average, limited access to treatment, insufficient quality of health care services, and lack of long-term, coordinated and comprehensive care. One of the major prerequisites for solving these problems is sufficient knowledge and skills of the health care workforce.

Almost 100 participants – educators, clinicians, researchers, students, patient representatives and advocates – took part in the virtual workshop, while a faculty of 12 speakers from 7 countries (DE, UK, LT, IT, HU, SI, AT) gave a vast overview on the current state-of-the art of rare disease education in Europe, it’s challenges and possible solutions. Several important conclusions were drawn from the discussions: although some aspects of rare disease education are provided by universities and medical schools, research infrastructues, professional, scientific, patient and non-governmental organizations, a growing wealth of educational resources is developed by the European Reference Networks and European Joint Programme on Rare Diseases, substantial gaps in knowledge and awareness still persist. Hence, there is a need to strengthen collaboration among the multistakeholder community and to develop common strategies for rare disease education and training in Europe and beyond. The Association of Medical Schools in Europe may play one of the leading roles in fostering and promoting rare diseases education for current and future healthcare workforce and researchers.